Visit to Konark Sun Temple in Odisha- How to Reach, Importance & Timings

The Konark Sun temple has always fascinated me as a kid as it transported me to a magical land where the Sun God rode this magnificent chariot across the sky pulled by seven horses. Hence, when I planned my trip to the beautiful state of Odisha, Konark was going to be my first stop.


After paying the entry fees we opted for a government approved tour guide to take us around the complex which would take around 1 hour. #Protip: we always make it a point to take a tour guide at heritage structures as the information they provide makes you truly appreciate the artistic magnificence and engineering dexterity of these architectural marvels. Besides, government-licensed guides cost approximately 250 rupees per hour.

Konark Sun Temple Facts:

Built in the middle of the 13th century by King Narasimhadeva I, the great ruler of the Ganga dynasty, the temple was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1984. Moreover, it was built by about 1200 people in a period of 12 years from (1243-1255 A.D.). The word 'Konark' is a combination of two Sanskrit words 'Kona' and 'Arka'. 'Kona' means 'Corner or Angle' and 'Arka' means 'Sun'.  

As we entered the heritage site, the guide pointed out to the two huge lions guarding the entrance to the Natya Mandir each killing a war elephant and beneath the elephant is a man. Further, he explained that the lions represent pride, elephants represent wealth and both of them destroy a human being completely. Exceptional!! No wonder the great poet Rabindranath Tagore wrote of Konark: "here the language of stone surpasses the language of man." 



We climbed up the Natya Mandir (Dancing Pavilion) which is a separate structure just in front of the temple. Sadly the roof of the pavilion no longer remains. Despite this, one is impressed with the intricately carved pillars that show different dance poses. 




The large structure of Konark Temple you see from the Natya Mandir is the Jahamogana (audience hall) which is the entrance to the main temple. Its entrance has been sealed and the interior filled with sand to protect it from caving in. In contrast, the main temple tower (Rekha Deula) which was the sanctum for the presiding deity has been reduced to a mass of stones. The actual idol of Sun God was removed from here and had been positioned in the Jagannath Temple in Puri.



The guide explained Konark temple being built as a stunning design of a colossal chariot with 12 pairs of wheels and pulled eastwards towards the dawn by 7 galloping horses carrying the Sun God across heaven. 



The wheels serve as sun dials that can accurately calculate the time. Additionally, the 12 pairs of wheels represent the 12 months of the year, the 24 wheels represent the 24 hours of the day and the 8 major spokes signifies prahars (three hour period) of a day. However, there are also other theories and interpretation regarding the significance of the wheel such as the wheels represents the ‘wheel of life’ while some say the 12 pairs of wheels represent the 12 zodiac signs. 



Each wheel is about 10 feet in diameter and about three meters high but has separate motifs on it. Besides, the rims are engraved with nature scenes, while the medallions in the spokes have women in mostly erotic poses. On one particular wheel the guide showed us carvings on the medallions which display the daily routine of a queen – again it’s an interpretation.  




The guide pointed out to the base of the temple which has sculptures of elephants, warriors on horses and other interesting structures. Although, the second level of the temple structure showcases male and female musicians holding various musical instruments, animals, birds and mythological creatures and the middle level showcases erotic sculptures. The guide said the sculptures represent the various stages of life for a human being namely Dharma (religion), Artha (Wealth), Kama (desire) and Moksha.






Further, as we moved around the temple we were shown sculptures of the Sun God at three different sides of the temple, positioned so that they can face the Sun at dawn, noon and sunset. Thus the temple symbolizes the passage of time governed by the Sun god.

The Morning Sun symbolizes with Brahma, the creator;
The Mid-Day Sun with Mahaswara, the destroyer and
The Evening Sun with Vishnu, the preserver

The guide explained the temple was built in red sandstone (Khandolite) and black granite sourced from various places and ferried via huge rafts on the then alive Chandrabhaga River to the construction site. Moreover, there is an iron plate between every two stone pieces and heavy lodestone (52 ton magnet) was placed at the top of the temple. The idol which was built of a material with iron content levitated due to the unique arrangements of the top lodestone, the bottom lodestone and the reinforced lodestones around the temple walls. Ultimately, the temple is also built in such a way that the first rays of the rising Sun falls directly on the main entrance of the temple through the Natya Mandir.

Since the magnet at the top caused disturbances in compasses for ships it was removed by British during the colonial era. The removal of the lodestone lead to the destruction of the main temple tower. Before we came to Konark we had read about a lodestone being used at the top and the bottom of the temple which levitated the statue of the Sun God and the removal of these lodestones led to the destruction of the main temple. However there are many theories behind the fall of the main temple and the guide provided information on one of these theories. 

In spite of the continuous battering by nature over the centuries, the beauty of this monument is still spellbinding and if you are seriously interested in architecture and sculpture then a visit to Konark has to be on your bucket list.

Location:
Konark is located on the Bay of Bengal in Odisha and about sixty two kilometers (1.5 hrs.) from Bhubaneshwar, the capital of Odisha. The nearest airport is Bhubaneshwar.
  • Entry fees: 40 INR for Indian Nationals, BIMSTEC and SAARC citizens and 600 INR for foreign Nationals
  • Timings: 6 AM to 8 PM 

Where to Stay:

You can either stay at Puri and drive down to Konark (1 hr. - approximately 35 Km) or you can choose to stay from the accommodations available around Konark. Lotus Eco Resort and Nature Camp Konark Retreat are popular options to choose from. #Protip: The Chandrabhaga beach at Konark is a very popular spot for witnessing a beautiful sunrise post which you can proceed towards the complex which opens at 6 AM.

If you have more days on hand, try visiting the picturesque Chilika Lake & stay at Swosti Chilika resort. Do read more about it here

What else can I see and do?

Be sure to visit the Konark Museum of the Archeological Survey of India which has an excellent collection of sculptures from the temple ruins. It's located to the north of the temple complex and has an entry fee of 10 INR. The museum is open from 9 am to 5 pm and is closed on Fridays.

The new state-of-the-art Konark Interpretation Center, which opened in early 2018 is worth stopping by. The center provides access to a great deal of information about the temple and Odisha and also has clean public toilets plus a cafeteria. The entry fee is 30 INR.

Check out the timings and cost on the konark sun temple official website for the sound and light show at Konark temple which explains the story of the temple, its mythology and archeological details. The sound is through a pair of high quality headphones and you can choose one of the three languages (English, Hindi or Odiya).

The Konark Dance Festival is held from 1st to 5th December every year. For more info click here

The International Sand Art Festival takes place at Chandrabhaga beach, near the temple, at the same time as the Konark Dance Festival.

The Chandrabhaga Mela is held every year in this temple in or around February

The entrance to the temples has shops on both sides selling conch shells, decorative items, small Konark wheel replicas and ornamental items made of stone & wood. Be sure to bargain to get the best price. There are also local and government shops in Konark town selling a selling a wide range of handicrafts, sculptures etc. #Protip: check out the beautifully embroidered umbrellas and traditional fabrics of Odisha.

Best time to visit:

November until February is the best time to visit as the climate is cool and dry.

Comments

  1. The Konark Sun Temple is a wonderful place to visit. The sun is the only god we can see with our naked eye. This article is awesome and provides many details about the temple. Thanks for sharing the article.

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